When will Middle East travellers return to UK and what lies ahead when they return?

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Sunrise on Catbells Mountain, The Lake District, Cumbria, England. Hiker walking along a path on the mountain ridge.

In a freewheeling interview with TD, Jennifer Huntley, head of partnerships in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa at VisitBritain talks about how the Gulf region is the second most valuable market for Britain in terms of visitor spending. VisitBritain is looking at positioning the country’s appeal as a tourism destination, improving its ranking in the e

JH: Working with a wide range of partners in both the UK and overseas, our mission is to make tourism one of the most successful and productive sectors for the UK economy. Tourism is currently worth GBP 127 billion (USD 174.40 billion) to Britain’s economy and as Britain’s seventh largest export industry, inbound tourism’s economic contribution was valued at GBP 26.2 billion (USD 35.98 billion) pre-covid-19. Despite some differences, there are many similarities in the GCC’s economies, culture and travel trends. When considered as a single market (as standard, inbound rankings do not consider GCC as a single market), the Gulf would be the second most valuable for Britain when it comes to visitor spending. Spend per visit is also far higher than the global average.

We implement differentiated marketing strategies to maximise return in all of them. These strategies are based on our customer insight, our knowledge of the barriers to inbound tourism growth and our solutions for addressing them.

: How is Visit Britain promoting the region in the Middle East? What are the key strategies involved?

yes of international travellers and increasing visitor spending in all parts of Britain

Digital is at the heart of our marketing, with a focus on content creation, curation and distribution for Britain. Our work boosts Britain’s appeal as a tourism destination, improving its ranking in the eyes of international travellers, and increasing visitor spending in all parts of Britain. This marketing to drive the aspiration to travel is supported by our work with the international travel trade and intermediaries to ensure that customers can easily book regional destinations. (During lockdown, our key objective is to keep Britain top of mind across all owned and earned channels with a call to action of, dream now, travel later.) We also engage proactively with public diplomacy partners, as well as with the nations and regions to ensure we deliver on our targets to drive the regional growth of inbound tourism. From a B2B side, our main objective is to keep the UK on top-of-mind of the travel trade. We therefore carry out webinars in order to educate trade partners and send out monthly newsletters to them with updates on UK travel related news.

JH: Gulf residents have positive perceptions of Britain; their top associations with the UK reveal an appreciation for our awe-inspiring landscapes, vibrant and buzzing cities (in particular – London and Manchester) and the potential for luxury experiences. Gulf visitors’ favourite activities in the UK are dining in restaurants, going shopping and visiting parks or gardens.

Destination choice can be made quite late as Gulf travellers usually have shorter lead-in times than most other markets. As a British expat, I know how desperate expats are to get back to see their friends and family and enjoy “home” more than ever before. This will be a real focus for us over the coming months and we really want to keep expats updated about UK travel industry openings so they can truly enjoy Britain and get out to explore their favourite places with their loved ones.